How much will governor hopefuls focus on Southwest Virginia?

WSLS 10 analyst Ed Lynch says they'll visit rural areas

ROANOKE, Va. – The fall political campaign season is now underway for Virginia’s gubernatorial candidates. It’s a race that’s continuing to draw national attention.

It’s still unclear how much Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam will focus on Southwest Virginia.

WSLS 10 political analyst Dr. Ed Lynch said Tuesday they certainly will visit the area.

“I actually think that Roanoke and Southwest Virginia will be on the campaign trail with some frequency,” he said. “I think the Democratic ticket will try to reverse the perception that they’ve written off this part of the state and that will compel the Republican ticket to spend some time in this area as well.”

Republicans emphasized that perception Monday when Northam and other top Democrats didn’t take part in the long-standing tradition of walking in the Buena Vista Labor Day parade.

“I don’t think the Democrats have given up on rural Virginia, but they certainly didn’t help themselves,” Lynch said of the decision. “Announcing it quite so blatantly by skipping a bipartisan tradition for 60 years, that surprised me a lot.”

If a party looks like it doesn’t care, that can mean more to people than how much a candidate visits an area, according to Lynch.

“It’s not really a question of time,” he said. “It’s a question of perception, and that’s where I think they made a short-term mistake.”

Lynch said, though, that in the long term it’s a good strategy for Democrats to focus on other areas.

“I think for Democrats it makes perfect sense to spend more time in the areas where the votes are there for them, and that’s northern Virginia, the northern neck. That’s the Virginia Beach area,” he said.

But he says there could be a price to pay for one party neglecting certain areas.

“Whoever loses is going to spend a great deal of time kicking themselves over the counties and cities in the commonwealth they didn’t visit,” he said.

According to Lynch, candidates need to be careful with negative ads because Virginians tend to react very negatively to very negative campaigns.

The most recent fundraising numbers show Gillespie had $3.2 million as of the end of June. That's nearly double Northam's $1.75 million.